Joshua Chapter 10

                                                         Part 2


Frightened by the initial Israelite battle successes, their encroachment upon Canaanite territory, that the Gibeonites joined the Israelites, and in self defense, the Canaanite tribes join the king of Jerusalem,[1] Adonei Tzedek.[2] Their initial attack would be against the Gibeonites who beseeched Joshua’s help. The Canaanites were unsuccessful and as a result the Israelites conquer all the southern Canaanite kingdoms.



            I mentioned in the past that one biblical style is to exaggerate. Thus when Scripture states that the Israelites will number as many as the stars and the sand, all it means is that there would be many of them. The Gibeonites tell Joshua[3] that all the Amorite kingdoms are attacking them, people who dwell in the mountains, even though they were being attacked by only five nations and only two of them inhabited mountain lands. The hyperbole here may have been prompted by their fear.

            Joshua rushed to aid them with his “entire military force with him and all the warriors of his soldiers.”[4] These two hyperbolic descriptions most likely mean: Joshua took “many” soldiers, which included seasoned warriors.

            Verse 11 states that God threw stones at the Canaanite force that killed more enemy soldiers than those slaughtered by the Israelites. Some scholars understand that the stones were meteorites,[5] but it is more likely that this is more hyperbole: the Israelite force was able during a heavy rainfall to kill many soldiers.

            Verses 10 and 11 indicate Joshua’s forces destroyed all of the enemy forces. This is hyperbole and the truth is that they won a great battle and killed many. There is no indication in the chapter that Jarmuth and Jerusalem were captured. In fact, Jerusalem was not captured until King David did so.

            According to Kaufmann, the success of the siege mentioned in verse 38 in a single day, is also hyperbole.

            Verse 40 is an exaggeration, events that later biblical books show never occurred. “Joshua smote all the land, the hill country, the south, the lowlands, the slops, all their kings; he left none remaining; he destroyed all that breathed utterly, as the Lord , the God of Israel, commanded.”

Two contrary events combined in a single narrative

            In chapters 8 and 9, I discussed the biblical phenomenon of recording two conflicting events in a single chapter and mixing them together to give an insufficiently observant reader the impression that he or she is reading about a single episode.[6]

            Both verses 15 and 43 use identical words saying that Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal. Verse 23 states that Joshua killed all five captured kings, including the king of Hebron, but verses 36 and 37 tell of the siege of Hebron at which time all the people of the town were killed, including the king. Verse 20 states that everyone was lilled, but continues that a remnant escaped to fortified cities. The commentators in Olam Hatanach this is as “good as seven witnesses that 28-39 is not a continuation of 1-27,” but is a different version. It is possible that one version narrates a single battle where every enemy soldier is killed. This occurred “while the sun stood still.” The alternate version is a series of many battles where the Israelite forces besieged town after town until much of southern Canaan was conquered.[7]

            However it is possible to interpret verses 1-15 as a brief narration of the event that is followed beginning with verse 16 with the details. This practice of a general statement followed by details occurs frequently throughout Scripture.

Sefer Hayashar

            Verse 13 states that Joshua’s battle is recorded in Sefer Hayashar. Unfortunately, most ancient books and documents have been lost, including this one. We no longer know what this book contained, but it seems to have listed ancient Israelite battles. II Samuel 1:17 states that King Saul’s battle is recorded there. Numbers 21:14 mentions a battle described in the “Book of Divine Wars,” which may be the same book. We also do not know the meaning of Hayashar here; it may be a description of God, or Israel, “upright” “righteous,” but it may also mean “song’ or something else.

Future tense used for present

Verse 12 literally states “Then Joshua will sing,” using the future when the present is meant. This occurs frequently, as in Exodus 15:1, “Then Moses will sing” and I Kings 7:8, “(Solomon) will build a house for Pharaoh’s daughter.” Midrashim sometimes accept the literal meaning for homiletical purposes. Thus in Exodus, Rashi quotes rabbis who say that Moses will extol God in the World to Come. He adds: “This is an illusion to the resurrection of the dead in the Torah.”

Obscure verse

            I mentioned frequently that many biblical verses are ambiguous or obscure. Verse 12 is an example. It is unclear whether Joshua sang his song as a prayer to God before the “miracle/victory,” or praise after the event. Olam Hatanach suggests that verse 14’s “And there was no day like that before it or after it that the Lord listened to the voice of man” suggests that verse 12 was a prayer that God accepted. The Aramaic translation Targum Jonathan contrarily considered Joshua’s statement as praise and therefore changes “said” to “praised” in the Aramaic translation of the verse. Midrash Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer felt that verse 12 is a plea to God and verse 13 as one of the ten songs of praise of God mentioned in Scripture.


[1] This is the first time that the name Jerusalem appears in Scripture. The name is written without the letter yud. Hence the transliteration Jerusalem. With the yud, as written in Jeremiah 26:18, Esther 2:6, II Chronicles 25:1 and 32:9, it would be Jerusalayim, or Yerushalayin in Hebrew. The j in the transliteration was an old way of transliterating the Hebrew yud, as Yehoshua became Joshua.

[2] In Genesis 14:18, see also Psalms 110:4, the king has a synonymous name, “Malki Tzedek.” Adonei Tzedek could mean “Lord Zedek,” a name given to all the kings of Jerusalem, just as Pharaoh was a tile given to Egyptian rulers, or Adonei may mean “god” and the king’s name may be translated “Tzedek is god.”

[3] Verse 6.

[4] Verse 7.  The Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint translations note the difficulty in saying the entire force went with Joshua “and” seasoned warriors, and delete “and,” thereby understanding that the final phrase explains the one before it, as I indicated above.

[5][5] Sefer Yehoshua, Mosad Harav Kook, on this verse.

[6] The editor probably had the two events before him and needed to decide: should I select just one and discard the other, but how can I do that since both are part of Jewish history; or should I insert them as two versions, but this may raise questions whether the book is telling true history; or should I mix the two events in such a way that only alert readers will notice the conflict, and they will have sufficient intelligence to deal with the conflict. He chose the later.

[7] Erhlich does not see two conflicting tales in this chapter. He wrote instead that the editor erred in placing verse 15 – it does not belong – and the editor mentions the death of the king of Hebron in 37 because he forgot that he included him among those executed earlier. Kaufmann points out that verse 15 is not in the Greek Septuagint translation.